By Tom H. Hastings
Do I not effectually destroy my enemies, in making them my friends?
–Sigismund of Luxemburg as quoted in The Sociable Storyteller (1846)
We are SOS in the Middle East. Stuck on Stupid. Can we get unstuck?
Focusing on Iran while keeping the overall region in mind, most scholars in my field of Peace and Conflict Studies would make some version of the following suggestions:
- Quit sending arms to anyone in the region
- Quit telling Iranian people what to do
- Offer to help, but not militarily
- Start lifting sanctions slowly, unilaterally
- Wait for reciprocity and repeat (Rapoport’s tested game theory)
- Start exchange programs to reintroduce Iranians to the US and Americans to Iran
Just as the US will have its Death to Iran or Death to Muslims loudmouths, Iran will have its Death to America blowhards. But let’s think about the Iranian Index:
- number of Iranians on planes as hijackers on 9.11.01: 0
- number of Americans held hostage from November 1979-January 1981: 52
- number of days US hostages held: 444
- number of US hostages killed: 0
- number of US hostages released alive: 52
- number of democratically elected leaders of Iran overthrown by US CIA in its 1953 Operation Ajax: 1
- number of political prisoners in Iran under US-installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi: 2,200
- number of barrels of oil US imports from Iran: 0
- number of Iranian nuclear scientists assassinated by Mossad/CIA operatives: 5
Do Americans recall the 1953 plot and all the military aid that subsequently went to the Shah, with his notorious SAVAK not-so-secret police, trained and armed and advised by the CIA? Just imagine that our country was upended, an Iranian-backed leader installed, and patriots were rounded up as soon as they dissented. Imagine that we endured this nightmare for 26 years. Would we ever forgive Iran? Might a few of us chant Death to Iran once in a while? I’m sure Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump and the entire Republican leadership (most of whom are running for president) would be so chanting on the floor of the House, the Senate, or on national television.
Oh—that’s right, they already do. Imagine an Iranian online reading about Ted Cruz’s claim that the nuclear deal makes Obama the biggest financier of terrorism in the world and then watches Cruz’s machine gun bacon video. The new surrealpolitik.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is sounding to the world like the most reasonable party, saying on Iranian TV that hardliners on both sides have it all wrong, “This idea that we have two options before the world, either submit to it or defeat it, is illogical: there is also a third way, of constructive cooperation with the world in a framework of national interests.”
Both the US and Iran are bad boys on the world stage. Both are viewed as states that practice or sponsor terror. We cannot fix that by wild talk by our politicians and neither can Iran.
For the good of the people of the US, of Iran, and of the world, we need to support the Iranian nuclear deal. It’s not perfect, but neither are any humans and humans control technology of weapons that must be perfectly kept from being used, ever. Therefore, the fewer nuclear weapons in the world, the less we have to worry about that human imperfection. It should make us more tolerant of each other and less tolerant of any nuclear weapons anywhere. As Deepak Chopra once said, “Nuclear weapons are always in the wrong hands.”
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.